understanding complex ptsdUnderstanding Complex PTSD starts with learning about a term that is gaining widespread recognition. Most people have at least heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It affects thousands and can be extremely debilitating.

But complex PTSD (C-PTSD) isn’t as widely known yet. That’s why understanding it is incredibly important.

The most essential part of understanding complex PTSD is learning how it differs from traditional PTSD. In order to do that, we have to take a closer look at what C-PTSD really is and what signs you should be looking for.

Some of the symptoms of C-PTSD are similar to those of traditional PTSD. But recognizing even the subtle differences can help you to receive a more accurate diagnosis so you can get the help you truly need.

What Is Complex PTSD?

Many therapists and medical providers often associate PTSD with a short-lived or one-time traumatic event. This includes things like a car accident, surviving a natural disaster, or an attempt at abuse.

However, the symptoms of PTSD don’t often correlate to more long-term trauma. Things like consistent abuse (mental or physical) or dealing with imprisonment or trauma from war are long-lasting events that can create complex psychological damage and emotional harm.

And that’s why there needs to be a differentiation between PTSD and C-PTSD. Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder encompasses all those long-lasting, continuous traumatic experiences. When those of us who treat patients with trauma symptoms describe this, we use terms like “complex trauma, complex PTSD or developmental trauma.” All of these refer to trauma symptoms that stem from repetitive early life psychological injury- trauma that usually happened at the hands of another person.

What Are the Signs of Complex PTSD?

While the symptoms of general PTSD include things like irritability, isolation, insomnia, and anxiety, symptoms of complex PTSD focus more on the long-term emotional and psychological issues that can affect someone who has experienced chronic trauma.

Some of the common symptoms of C-PTSD include:

  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Severe depression/thoughts of suicide
  • Repressed memories of the traumatic event(s)
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Distrust for others
  • A sense of hopelessness/loss of faith

And there are other signs to look for too. If you are suffering from C-PTSD, you may have had several ineffective treatments or worked with doctors or therapists who gave you multiple diagnosis.

People who suffer from complex PTSD also often feel like they have absolutely no power over the person/people who caused their trauma. As a result, they might feel like they have no power or control over anyone or anything at all. And therefore, they can sometimes give in to abuse easily—so the cycle continues.

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD. The signs and symptoms are very similar, on the surface.

Considering what type of trauma an individual has been through is one of the best ways to make this diagnosis. If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, but you went through chronic trauma, you may actually have complex PTSD and need a different treatment than previously considered.

Finding Help with Treating Complex PTSD

Someone who struggles with complex PTSD can feel practically paralyzed when it comes to stepping out into the world each day.

The good news?

Some of the treatment solutions used for traditional PTSD can be effective for someone with C-PTSD. However, many times, more is required to get through the effects of chronic trauma and deal with the difficult symptoms. That’s why working with a therapist with specialized Complex PTSD experience and training is so important. 

Understanding complex PTSD isn’t always easy. There isn’t as much known about it when compared to general PTSD. Even researchers are still studying it and every day we learn more about healing the effects of childhood trauma.

But more and more research is suggesting that a phase-based approach to treatment is one of the best ways to get through this specialized form of PTSD. The phases include improving your self-management skills, being able to process the trauma you’ve been through, and eventually encouraging more “normalcy” back into your life.

Trauma and PTSD go hand-in-hand. But, if you’re worried you might be dealing with more than general PTSD, getting the proper diagnosis can help. Truly understanding complex PTSD can make a big difference. Therefore, going to a therapist who is a trauma treatment specialist. Find caregivers who recognize the symptoms and can provide specialized trauma psychotherapy. It’s vital for your recovery.

If you’ve been through a traumatic event or relationship, please feel free to set up an appointment with me. After receiving the right diagnosis, we can begin the right treatment solutions to help you take control of your life once more.